SVA for Rodders

By Kev Rooney

I think it’s best to start by saying don’t take this as gospel!! This is my interpretation into layman’s terms of the current, April 2004, SVA Inspection manual, and I would suggest purchasing a copy from the VOSA website before you commit to building. It currently costs £37 for the full ESVA and SVA manual combined.

For basic details of if it is relevant to your project check this link :-

 It appears, from my understanding that the ESVA applies to commercially imported vehicles and that rods will usually fall into the SVA category.

Firstly a few pointers contained in the foreword.

The vehicle will be tested in all modes ie if its dual fuel it will be tested on both and if it is a convertible that will be tested with roof up and down to ensure it complies in all situations.

Grounds for refusal to test are:-

  • Being late
  • Not paying ie bounced cheque
  • There is not enough fuel or oil to complete the full length of the test
  • It is in a dirty or dangerous condition
  • It cannot be checked as any of the openings are unable to be unlocked, ie boot, doors, engine covers, fuel cap
  • The condition is such that the Inspector believes that it would create a danger to person or property
  • That the driver does not remain with the vehicle to enable it to be moved operate controls etc.

For our purposes we are only looking at how the rules apply to :-

Class B ) Amateur built vehicles

Class C) vehicles manufactured using parts of a registered vehicle

 So to the regulations...

Item 1)  Anti theft device

In addition to the normal ignition switch the vehicle must be permanently fitted with a device to prevent the vehicle being driven or moved under its own power. This device should NOT operate on a part of the braking system and cannot be activated with the engine running. Nor can the engine be started without the device having been deactivated and its operation must be distinct and separate from stopping the engine..

The basic interpretation is that a column with a steering lock will do the job or anything else that only activates when the key is removed rather than just turning the engine off ie immobilisers where the key is the final coded link. It is also possible that a ‘credit card ‘ type pre ignition  circuit immobiliser would meet this criteria  meaning a steering lock would not have to be fitted.

 A key operated battery kill switch should also be ok.

Item 2)   Defrosting / demisting

Must be fitted to all vehicles except those that do not have a windscreen, have a FULLY opening windscreen, or where the top edge of the screen is below the horizontal plane laid out in annex to Item.

It must give adequate views forward and to the drivers and nearside. It must employ a fan and ducting to aim at the screen. Any device must be a permanent part of the car so plug in cigarette devices will fail.

Item 3) Wipers and washers

These are not required if no screen is fitted or you are able to look over it as defined above.

It must have a minimum of one speed that will perform 45 cycles per minute with a cycle being a forward and return motion. The wipers must park at the outer edge of the swept area and the arms must be capable of being lifted to clean the screen manually.

Washers must have a minimum bottle capacity of 1 litre and all fittings must be able to withstand the pressure generated by both the nozzles being blocked for 3-5 seconds.

Item 4)  Seats

Seats must be firmly attached to the vehicle and all functions must have lock facilities ie tilt / slide / recline. If they are fitted to a non metallic floor then they must have adequate support to spread the mounting load. Something like large round washers possibly but even better steel plates welded to x members would suit.

A bench seat in a roadster or  coupe must be fixed so that in cannot move in any direction , up down or sideways, so you’ll need some form of tab that can be screwed into place or locked in some manner.

If the car is a 4 seater the lever to allow the seat back or seat to tilt must be able to be reached from outside when the door is open and also by the rear passenger when seated.

For those using OEM newer bucket type seats all this issues will have been covered by the manufacturer.

Item 5) Seat belts

This item has 10 pages alone so they consider them quite important!

There are a lot of diagrams which show minimum mounting distances and how mounts should be constructed to dissipate forces into the cars structure. This does mean that a large washer underneath a glass floor is very unlikely to cut it!

The basics are that you need a minimum of 3 point fixing belts either lap and diagonal or full harnesses if you cannot meet the shoulder height requirements otherwise. Belts must be marked as meeting the relevant BS/ ECE / EEC requirements and  should have webbing a minimum of 46mm wide or 33mm on shoulder harnesses.

The belts should be held in with 11mm or 7/16ths grade 8.8 bolts and these, along with all corrodible surfaces must be plated to protect them.

This section includes diagrams of acceptable methods of affixing the seat belt mounts and also methods of constructing a roll cage if these are to be used to mount the belt.

Item 6)   Interior

This is where all the involved radii come into it. There is an exclusion zone of 127mm extra radius on your steering wheel where stuff can be fitted without worrying too much. The wisest course would appear to be to use this area to the full for everything, including warning lights and using modern OEM switchgear that will have already passed. Plus, of course, keep switched functions down to a minimum.

Older style switches look like they will pass if recessed into the dash panel, with the correct radii on the corners of course.

The handbrake falls into this item number criteria and even an incorrect radii on this will fail you. One of the all plastic coated types should resolve this.

Item 7)  Radio  suppression

The engine must be suppressed to current standards including alternator output, if not internally suppressed, ht outputs and the plug leads must be marked to that effect at a max of every 120mm.

Item 8)   Glazing

A clear unobstructed view ahead is necessary and this also includes positioning of the steering wheel per a diagram in this section. I would think that a Duval style screen would fall foul of this section.

All glass must be safety glass designed to break into non harmful parts so that really mean toughened or laminated. Any windows to the rear of the driver can be safety glazed if requir , ie shatterproof Perspex type materials and these do not require safety markings.

 The main glass does however require the relevant BS /ECE/EEC marking by the manufacturer rather than a glass agent. This means getting them cut down your local glazier is not an option as his whole sheet would only carry one marking.

Windows must also allow transmission of 70% of all available light so no heavy tints.

Item 9)  Lighting

This section runs to about 15 pages with all the CORRECT positioning of lamps and details of what BS / ECE/ EEC markings are acceptable. In many ways the best option would appear to be a bumper / light bar, for front and rear, that incorporates the required items. With some careful thought it would be possible to position mandatory auxiliary lights like fog lights so that they could be operated  and visible only when required .However don’t forget that this may cause problems on the test as it may not be seen to be a permanent positioned light.

There are many diagrams in this section that show the required min / max heights and angle of view required.

One important point is that ALL lights fitted will be part of the test so don’t double up with lights that don’t meet regulations. The will only be considered NOT to be lights if they are painted over, permanently masked or not provided with wiring. Removing the bulb or the switch, blocking the socket with tape or silicone or anything else that means it can be reverted without workshop tools will FAIL.

 Item 10) Mirrors

The requirements are for a minimum of one interior and one driver’s side exterior mirror which must conform to SVA spec in that there are no sharp edges and a minimum surface area as laid down in the text. If the view from the interior mirror is insufficient, again as laid out with markers in the text, then another opposite hand exterior mirror is required. If these mirrors project beyond the footprint of the vehicle they must be off the knock- back style. However, with a vehicle equipped with running boards, knock back mirrors should not be a requirement.

It’s worth paying particular attention to this section if you have a car with a fixed roof or a convertible. The seat to mirror positioning can have a big effect on your likelihood of passing especially in a chopped car.

 Item 11) Tyres

Tyres all have to have E marks or US Standard FMVSS109 and to show the size, construction, and speed capability or you must provide documentation to show how they meet this criteria.

Each tyre must be suitable for the vehicles speed capability and written evidence of the vehicles likely top speed must be produced. Not sure but I would think a calculation based on diff ratio / tyre size/ rpm showing mph/1000 rpm would suffice.

Each tyre must be of adequate load capacity for the axle to which it is fitted. There is an annex to this section that shows how to calculate axle weight and later in the regulations it shows how to calculate kerb design weight.

Item 12 ) Doors, latches and hinges

Vehicles that don’t have opening doors have a minimum radius on the top edge of the bodywork with which to compl .

All openings should be able to latch securely in the closed position and door handles must be able to be reached from the adjacent seating.

All door latches shall have an intermediate ‘safety catch ‘and should be able to withstand   a pressure of 60lb/ft in both positions without the door popping open. Bear claw latches would be the best method here if at all possible.

Suicide doors should have a safety bolt fitted to prevent the door accidentally being unlatched and it should have an audible warning that if it is driven without this bolt secured.

Item 13) Exterior  projections

A bumper at both ends will negate the need for all suspension components behind it to be checked for radii or bluntness or plastic caps fitted as necessary. All bumpers must return inwards or be integrated into the body.

The radii are all listed but it boils down to all sheet metal should have a safety return EVEN when it is against  another panel ie a sheet metal light housing bolted to a rear wing .

 All GRP panels, wing and door edges must have a radius of 1.5mm which means that the panel should be 3 mm thick with a full radius on both sides.

Hinges and hood locks have to meet the criteria as well. Any modifications to get a component through must be permanent ,durable, and of the same material as a manufacturer would use so silicone and pipe lagging as previously allowed will now  fail.

Handles, hinges, push buttons and fuel filler caps must not project more than 50mm where they are within the body floor plan and no more than 40mm in all other cases.

All handle s that rotate parallel to the door (street rod handles)  should be directed so that the open end faces rearward or if it is within the floor plan  ( which it will be if you have running boards) then the open end should be shielded  or recessed into the bodywork or the gap between the handle and the bodywork is less than 2 mm.

Item 14) Protective steering

The steering system must be designed that when driven at speeds in excess of 10mph the car will exhibit self centering tendencies. If you haven’t messed with the caster or Ackerman angles you shouldn’t have any problems.  You really shouldn’t be driving a car with no self centering if you value your life!

The steering wheel must be made of non splinter able material with no surfaces to catch clothing or jewellery . The locating nut, if exposed, must be below the level of the rim and screws used to assemble a boss must meet radii specifications.

If the steering is mounted ahead of the axle centerline then the chassis must absorb impact to try to prevent the full force reaching the column. This should be built in the form of intentionally weak sections or different grade materials.

The first area to contact in the required 30 mph head on collision may not be the  chassis  ( unless a bumper is fitted to this ahead of all items )  but rather the wheels and the method by which they are attached to the chassis should provide a method of absorbing energy alongside the rails..

In all cases the steering wheels and upper column should not move back or up by more than 127mm (controlled by the length of collapsibility built in).

The annex in this section lists acceptable methods of building this in and using ONE u/j is NOT acceptable whereas two at staggered angles would be.

The simplest method here would be to use a column and wheel from a late vehicle that will comply with all these regulations although a ‘Traditional’ set up could be made to pass with a little bit of thought.

My take on the chassis collapsibility is that a series of different sized drilled and tubed holes would comply . Also that if the front bumper is incorporated into the initial deign that the mounting brackets could be made to aid absorption by different lengths and thicknesses of material being used. This is probably an area where research into the kit car market on those cars that are passing SVA would be helpful.

Item 15) Vehicle design and construction.

This is where the inspector checks all brackets on steering, brakes and other construction methods to ensure they are likely to withstand the stresses to which  they are subjected .If you build to a minimum of OEM standard  ( and we generally build to a higher quality for safety )  there should be no concerns.

Everything needs to be safety locked preferably by locknut or split pin.

Fuel line, clips and tanks will all be assessed and suitability for purpose so that bungee strapped jerry can isn’t going to cut it either!

All electrical components will be looked at to make sure they will not present afire hazard so that means correct fusing, grommets through bulkheads, shielding where heat could damage the loom and OEM quality finished ends and wiring grades. Adhesive tape and stick on locating pads can only be used as per OEM specs so not acceptable underneath.

All wiring will be secured every 300mm other than where it passes through an inaccessible box section.

The risk of fire or corrosion must be minimized so think carefully on the battery’s location.

Item 16) Brakes

The brakes must be twin circuit with a clear reservoir, marked with a min / max level and also including a low level warning light with a recognized logo. It is good practice that this light illuminates when the ignition is first on to check the bulb is still working. Most cars use the same light for ‘handbrake on’ function so killing two birds with one stone.

The handbrake must be able to be operated EASILY from the driving position from forward and back positions if the seat base is adjustable. It must also not be able to release itself when struck from either side.

The front brakes must be able to compensate automatically for wear on the front which tends to rule out drum brakes being allowed.

There is a check to show that the brakes can operate without fade but basically if you can provide written details of a car of the same weight or more that are using the same set up then this will be proof that they are adequate.

If you chose to use twin master cylinder set up with a balance bar or manual bias compensator then the brakes will be tested in their worst case scenario ie all braking to the rear

There are about another 6 -8 pages listing the spec and balance that the brakes must conform to but it is more or less MOT standard check.

Item 17 ) Noise

This section details how the noise test is done but if it’s over 101db then its going to fail.

Item 18) Emissions

This includes details of how the test is carries out but is the same as an MOT. The critical thing is what spec it has to meet.  The ‘effective date’ is that of the 1st of January preceding the date of engines manufacture date. This has to be proved by a copy of the donor engine vehicles log book or a letter from the manufacturer confirming the date of the production period.

The onus of proof is on the owner and if none is provided then the date will be assumed to be 1st August 1997.

Item 19) Diesel emissions

Not relevant ( probably ? )

Item 20) Speedometer

The speedo must read in both mph and kph in intervals not exceeding 20 mph.

It must be clearly visible although temporary obstruction by the steering wheel is acceptable.

It must read to the maximum design speed.

It must not read slow but it can read fast by up to 15% depending on what road speed  ( table included )

Item 21) Design weights

Although theoretically the components used should be based on the overall design weight for the vehicle that fact that most bodies are  GRP allow for sufficient safety factor. This section gives details of what criteria the vehicle must meet on weight distribution. Based on the formula in here the design weight can be retro calculated from a true kerbside weight. These figures will be needed to allow accurate brake performance testing.

Item 22) Goods vehicle plate

Not relevant .

So there you have the basic break down of the legislation. Once again this is my interpretation and I would say if you intend to build to SVA spec then you MUST purchase the book .Not a huge problem to comply if careful thought is given to design and choice of certain components .A ‘smooth look’ rod would be easier to put through but traditional one or even a stripped down hot rod style COULD pass  as Lotus 7 type kit cars are not that far removed. The stripped down rod could run into problems with 4 bar / wishbone / hairpin design and mounting, likewise with side, as opposed to cross, steering set ups.

Kev Rooney

Try this link aswell for more in-depth info on the SVA

Also you must read this

Info on how to register your pre 98 'kit', use it wisely and carefully

DVLA Local Offices (LOs) will take the introduction of SVA tests into account when considering the type approval requirements for cars and vans modified prior to 01 January 1998.

Since the introduction of these tests there has been  no policy in place to allow the re-registration of modified vehicles without evidence of type approval, even where there is  substantial evidence that modifications were carried out prior to the introduction of type approval. To address this, and the accuracy of DVLA's register, when a kit converted vehicle is presented to DVLA LO and there is substantial evidence available (original letter/receipt from the kit converter/supplier and /or several pre 1998 MOT certificates) showing the model of the kit, consideration may be given, following inspection of the vehicle , to registering it to reflect the make/model details without SVA.

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